The best (and worst) states for business

June 12, 2018

Last month CEO Magazine produced its annual ranking of the best states in which to do business, and, as with previous surveys, our region does very well.

The best place to do business in the United States is Texas, followed by No. 2 Florida and, in a tie, No. 3 North Carolina and South Carolina, according to Chief Executive’s 2018 “Best and Worst States for Business.” CEOs ranked Indiana No. 5, rounding out the top five states.

The worst place is No. 50 California, bested only slightly by No. 49 New York, No. 48 Illinois, No. 47 New Jersey, No. 46 Connecticut and No. 45 Massachusetts.

Seem familiar? That’s because those are the exact same positions each of these states has occupied in each of the last four years in our annual poll of CEOs about business climates.

The entire ranking includes TN & GA in the Top 10, at #6 & #7 respectively.  Those at the top tend not to change much because they have a consistent philosophy about how to approach the business climate, and they don’t see significant leadership changes.  There’s a similar dynamic at the bottom of the list as well:

Meanwhile, the high-tax, high-cost environments created by the bottom states also tend to be self-reinforcing. Mostly, those places are kept afloat economically by legacy advantages such as strong education and healthcare systems, as well as by the fact that in-demand, digitally skilled millennials enjoy living in their cities.

But states like Massachusetts risk eroding even those advantages as the cost of living skyrockets in big cities and traffic and other annoyances mount. … The situations of bottom feeders could get worse before they get better, in part because of a particular effect of federal tax reform on high-tax states—like the basement dwellers. “The exit numbers of companies and owners are going to be higher,” McGuire says, “because people won’t be able to deduct as much in property and income taxes. They’re being taxed into oblivion.” Also, the coasts are losing some of their perceived edge in talent and lifestyle amid sharply higher costs of living—and facing steadily increasing digital capabilities in the heartland.

“It’s getting to the point now where if you’re a digital marketing specialist, you can move to Nashville or Omaha and have three or four opportunities,” says David Hall, vice president for investments at Revolution LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based seed fund. “Before it was so scattered. You’re seeing the density of the tech and startup ecosystem build on itself and create great network effects within a region.”

This is the most recent item in a long run of stories describing a geographic analog to the process of creative destruction.  Those states who spray “startupicideon the economy –  suffocating regulations, inflated business taxes and fees, lawsuit-friendly legal environments, and political classes uninterested in business concerns, if not downright hostile to them – lose economic clout as people and capital migrate to other states with more favorable environments in which to work and live.

This migration of economic clout within the US has been more subtle than the California Gold Rush or Irish Potato Famine but is just as significant.  Some states are chasing away their earners, workers, and entrepreneurs; this is their tax base.

The growth corridors of the high-tech South would have a mercantile-like advantage but for the fact that employers can (and do!) simply move in order to thrive under our growth-oriented tax policieslower public sector debt burdensstronger job creationexcellent climate for entrepreneurs, and a superior overall business climate.  (The actual climate happens to be conducive to a great quality of life as well.)

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